I understand what it means to be in debt. After completing dental school and a period residency from LSU, I owed $300,000 in student loans. Two weeks before graduation, my job offer fell through, leaving my wife and I with a two-month-old and no clue what to do. In order to provide for the family, I started a practice from scratch and became debt free after seven years. Many new dentists find themselves overwhelmed by credit card debt, student loans, and other consumer debt that can be difficult to pay off.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your debt in 2023, here’s 5 steps to get started:
1. Create a budget
The first step to getting out of debt is to know where your money is going. Budgeting makes it easier by recording your earnings and expenses. This allows you to identify ways to save in order to pay off debt with more money.
2. Use the debt snowball
When using this method, simply arrange your debts from smallest to largest excluding your mortgage. Next, pay the minimum on each debt plus extra (the most you can afford) on the one with the smallest balance. Once it’s paid off, pay extra on the next lowest. Repeat until you’re debt-free. The advantage of using this strategy is that you’ll reduce your
monthly payments (each time you pay off a debt) and save money on future interest by not paying for the full term of your loans. Then, you can use extra money each month to invest or even pay off your mortgage!
3. Refinance debt
By refinancing your debt to a lower interest rate, you can potentially save in interest to pay off debts faster. You can refinance a variety of debts, including mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, and student loans. One way to do this is through a debt consolidation loan, which combines multiple debts into a single loan with a lower interest rate. Another option is to transfer your debt to a balance transfer credit card, which offers a 0% APR for a promotional
period, usually between six and 18 months. Refinancing can provide a lower interest rate, predictable monthly payments, and a set loan term, helping you achieve your financial
goals more quickly.
4. Increase income
To free up more money to pay off debt, focus on increasing your income. If a raise or promotion isn’t possible, consider finding ways to earn extra cash starting a side hustle. I personally love investing in real estate (i.e., syndications) to provide additional income streams besides my dental income. These investments are “hands off” allowing me to focus on growing my active income to invest for passive income.
5. Track your progress
It takes time to get out of debt which can make it easy to lose motivation along the way. Tracking your progress at Maintaining a spreadsheet or a visual progress tracker will serve as a reminder of your accomplishments and the objectives you still have left to complete.
Dr. Jeff Anzalone is a periodontist in the great state of Louisiana, author and founder of DebtFreeDr.com. His focus is on helping dentists create passive income from real estate so that they can STOP trading their time for money.